Sermons

"Shake It Off": Sermon for the Sixth Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 9, Year B

"Shake It Off": Sermon for the Sixth Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 9, Year B

Jul 05, 2015

Passage:Mark 6:1-13

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace

Series: Season After Pentecost

Category: Love, Discipleship, Reconciliation

Keywords: anger, hospitality, peace, reconciliation

Summary:

We've all been in situations where we have made someone angry. But when it comes to our Christian convictions and beliefs, we often grow particularly sensitive and ready to "debate and defend and argue" until we "win the day".... But we need to remember that Christ came to give a message of God's peace, love, hospitality, and grace. And if others are not ready to receive that message, we are to "move on" from the conversation in the moment. We need to find ways to maintain God's peace, and still "come to the table" as one in God.

Detail:

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Have you ever really made someone mad at you?

I mean rip-snortin', tears-in-their-eyes, can't hardly speak, you're-not-sure-if-they're-gonna-hit-you-or-explode-on-the-spot mad?

I have to admit I've made a few people that mad at me before.

I'm not too proud of that.

And the few times it has happened, it's been because I pushed and pushed and pushed them past a breaking point.

One time, back when I was a professor, I was trying to get a new program implemented on the campus. I had worked very with some other folks to put together the details of this program. We were proud of our work. It was going to do good things for our students.

But there was a problem. There were other groups of faculty in other parts of the university who proposed their own programs. Our proposal was in competition with theirs. Their vision of the future direction clashed with ours.

It was all coming a to showdown during this one academic year. We were going to have a big faculty vote about  which plan to implement.

I began lobbying and politicking my way through the faculty, trying to line up votes ahead of time. And that might have been okay, if, as I did so, I had simply let my arguments stick to the merits of the issues. BUT, what I actually found myself doing over those weeks was to denigrate and debase the character of the people who supported the other plan.

I justified my actions because I heard many reports and rumors of things "they" said about me. The more people told me about their bad-mouthing, the more creative my insults about them became.

Soon we had a truly divided faculty.

The administration finally suggested that the leaders of the two plans try to work out some type of compromise before the vote took place.

I met with the head of the other faction. I had all my talking points ready. My debating skills were honed and I was prepared for blood. When we gathered, the meeting lasted for at least two hours. He talked. Then I talked. Then he talked again. Neither of us really listened. I was absolutely right. He was absolutely right. Neither of us would budge. We became furious with each other. But, he was really mad at me.

My arguments were relentless and intense. His face kept getting redder and redder. I thought steam was going to come out of his ears like in the cartoons. I left the room without resolution.  

By the time the vote came a week later, my proposal won--by a pretty large margin.

The group of faculty on the "losing" side of the argument never really had anything to do with me ever again.

And here's a post-script to that story: within five years, the university dumped my program completely for "the next big thing." All of that fighting and vitriol was for a program that didn't even last but a few years. One of the principles I remember hearing is that "academic politics are so vicious because the stakes are so low!"

This story calls to mind for me our Gospel reading from Mark today. Jesus has just been in his hometown, teaching in the synagogue. He doesn't get a very good reception there. The folks don't take to his teaching--after all "isn't this the carpenter, the son of Mary?"

Amazed at the unbelief of his own people--his own closest friends and family--Jesus heads out among the villages of Galilee. But here he calls the twelve disciples to send them out for the first time on their own.

He is now giving them the authority to bring healing in God's name and to proclaim the coming Kingdom.

He gives some good practical advice: travel in pairs, travel light, etc. 

But what about that bit where Jesus says, "if any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them."

It sounds rather harsh, right? Jesus was proclaiming a message of peace...a message of hope...a message of hospitality...a message of God's love and reconciliation. Why this part?

In many of the towns of Galilee and Judea, the citizens were looking for a slightly different message when the Messiah came. They wanted the Messiah to lead an uprising against the Roman authorities. Jesus and his followers are trying to proclaim to the people that Jesus is the Messiah. The Kingdom of God is at hand. But the Kingdom of God is not coming in the militaristic, destroy-the-Romans, triumphant way they were looking for. Jesus is presenting a completely different, upside-down way of understanding the Messiah.

These disciples--these missionaries--were to go out and tell the world that God's Kingdom is here NOW! God's peace and love and hospitality and reconciliation are available NOW. Healing is here NOW.

BUT, if the people are so caught up in their own vision of how the world works--if they reject this teaching--Jesus wants these disciples to move on.

Time is too short to just hang around and argue. Their job is to testify to the good news. Their goal is to demonstrate God's love. Their commission is to be ambassadors for Christ--showing the hospitality and love of God's Kingdom here and now. They are to continually strive for reconciliation and healing.

BUT, they are not supposed to try to argue and convince those who disagreed. They are to move on. In shaking off the dust from their feet, they leave the potentially volatile situation they are in. And it never rises to the place of hatred and schism and destruction.

Of course, Christ's instructions to the disciples serve as ours as well. As baptized Christians we have the privilege of following this commission. And that's important for us to hear:

Our baptism does not simply make us part of some exclusive club that gives us membership in God's master plan of salvation. Instead, it makes us part of the group who are receivers those instructions from Jesus.

We are to engage the world from a place of God's love and reconciliation. There will be people who are not ready to hear that God loves them. Many in this world operate out of a paradigm of sorrow and anger and fear and destruction and hatred. They are blinded to the grace and love of God. Tragically, sometimes, fellow Christians operate within this paradigm. And, if we are completely honest, we ALL fall short and are blinded to God's love and hospitality and healing and grace in the world on occasion.  

So if we are disciples, what do we do?

We strive to be honest in our attempts to share the love of God with all of our neighbors. We show love and hospitality to the ones we agree with. And, perhaps even more importantly, we show love and hospitality to the ones we disagree with. And sometimes that's really hard. But we do it.

This last week, the bishops of our church modeled for us Christian hospitality and love in disagreement. In some of the debates at General Convention, different bishops held deeply divergent theological positions.

But in the discussions, they sat at the same tables with each other. They listened to each other genuinely, assuming that each came to their understanding through prayer and faithful study. And when the House of Bishops reached ultimate consensus on the issues, some still disagreed with the final vote.  But they felt heard in the process.

They believed that coming to the table in unity was more important than their theological differences. That's how we should interact with each other as Christians. We should not engage in attempts to waste time in futile arguments.

As the Body of Christ, we continue to be faithful in our worship, in our service, and in our ministries, and indeed, in our everyday lives. Through this faithfulness, we can make our worship, our service, our ministries, and our lives open and hospitable to ALL of God's children. So let's all come to this table together in the love of Christ!

Amen